I’ve been meaning to continue this story for a while now, but each time I open a document to type, I blanked. Mainly because the next few years aren’t very interesting.
After the accident, my hearing stabilized. I continued on my way as a child with a hearing loss alone in a hearing school. I had no support services, sans my mother’s advocacy. I was teased and picked on for my hearing loss, my hearing aids, my need for preferential treatment. I had my friends and yet I often felt left out and lost when I misheard or couldn’t hear.
I realize this is all very personal, another child with a hearing loss might not have the social struggles I had. I know my ears played a part, as did my personality, the other kids’ personalities, and the whole mess of complicated childhood issues.
In middle school I was finally connected with an advocate. Now, at that point I didn’t notice what I was missing. I studied with my friends, who happened to be in the top 10% of our class. I learned from them what I missed from the teachers. Therefore I felt less smart than them, when in reality I could handle my own.
With the assistance of the advocate a few things happened. One, I matched my schedule with that of my best friend (future valedictorian and Harvard Law graduate) so I could always get help from her notes. The school also provided me with an FM System.
Simply put, an FM System consists of a chunky hearing aid that has multiple controls, including hooking up to a microphone a teacher wore. Even though my peers knew I had a hearing loss, this was more cumbersome. The hearing aids weren’t comfortable and I had to get each teacher to place a microphone on them. Sometimes shirts brushed against the microphones creating an uncomfortable sound.
It also had its perks. During tests I heard all the hints the teacher whispered to my peers. If the teacher stepped outside, sometimes I heard what was being said. An FM System can be fun, but it required I be comfortable with the attention, and the teachers be willing to work with me and my device.
I’ve struggled with some pretty unusual situations as well: my school installed a motion sensor to save on electricity. Said motion sensor interacted with my hearing aids, giving me nothing but static. I had to go into the school after hours, with my mom and a stethoscope tool so she could hear through my aids, in order to prove I was telling the truth. Once Mom got on board they turned off the motion sensors for me.
Advocacy. It’s not something I was aware of as a child. But my ears require me to be my own advocate. They required my mother to be my advocate. At times, that’s also called social suicide. Because we all know: it’s not easy being different.